Microsoft brings AI productivity tools to Aussie organisations with launch of M365 Copilot Early Access Program

Lucy Debono, Modern Work Business Group Director, Microsoft Australia and New Zealand
Lucy Debono, Modern Work Business Group Director, Microsoft Australia and New Zealand

Microsoft has announced the first Australian customers to access Microsoft 365 (M365) Copilot as part of the invitation-only global Early Access Program. AGL, Data#3, Bupa, NAB, Powerlink Queensland, Rest Super and Suncorp are among the first organisations in Australia to deploy the groundbreaking M365 Copilot, a powerful generative AI service that combines the power of large language models (LLMs) with organisational data from Microsoft 365.

What does the program bring to Australian enterprises?

As part of the M365 Copilot Early Access Program, these businesses will get access to the latest generative AI technology to unlock new levels of productivity across apps like Microsoft Teams, Word, PowerPoint and Excel. The Early Access Program includes support from Microsoft modern work experts to enable firms to drive maximum value from the tech.

Additionally, the pioneering businesses will also benefit from the recently announced extensibility model, with developers able to integrate their apps and services into Microsoft 365 Copilot to reach millions of Australians where they work everyday. This includes plugins from partners like Atlassian, Adobe, Servicenow, Thomson Reuters, Moveworks and Mural.

Delivering unparalleled solutions for customers

Data#3 CEO and Managing Director, Laurence Baynham, commented on their participation in the M365 EAP, “Our substantial investment in Microsoft’s Copilot EAP underscores our commitment to fostering innovation and delivering unparalleled solutions for our customers.”

“This investment doesn’t just put us at the forefront of technology and the associated outcomes for our business but gives us the first-hand knowledge to help customers do the same. I’m excited to see the outcome of this program and the benefits delivered.” 

Natalie Field, Chief Digital and Data Officer at Bupa
Natalie Field, Chief Digital and Data Officer at Bupa

Commenting on the Microsoft Early Access Program, Bupa’s Chief Digital and Data Officer, Natalie Field said, “We are currently exploring ways that AI and other technologies can help our people by giving them back time to focus on what matters most – our customers.” 

Gen AI seen as competitive advantage for Financial Services firms  

Australia’s financial services sector is estimated to gain between $5 – $13 billion annually in economic value by 2030 as a result of generative AI adoption, according to a study by the Tech Council of Australia and Microsoft. It’s no surprise that it’s been one of the fastest-moving industries, with NAB being one of the first firms in Australia to deploy M365 Copilot.

NAB is testing the technology for specific tasks and roles to see what impact generative AI could have in driving greater productivity and enabling their workforce to focus on higher value, more fulfilling tasks as part of their roles. For Suncorp Group, building on years of experiencing in using AI in their business, their focus for the M365 Copilot trial is to continue to look at ways to save their people time and improve how they serve customers. 

Suncorp Group’s Head of Data Science, AI & Insights, Craig Price commented, “More broadly we see huge potential in expanding generative AI solutions internally in a safe, secure, and ethical way. As an insurer, we are investigating many use cases, including how we help our customer-facing teams deliver exceptional service, including during the claims process.”

“We see a great opportunity to help improve how our people access relevant content, such as our insurance product disclosure statements, in a more intuitive way so that they can support customers quickly when they need us most,” Craig Price further commented.

Jeremy Hubbard, Chief Technology and Data Officer at Rest Super
Jeremy Hubbard, Chief Technology and Data Officer at Rest Super

Rest Super is adopting the technology as part of the company’s technology-powered and people-centred transformation strategy. Jeremy Hubbard, Chief Technology and Data Officer at Rest Super said, “AI continues to transform the way we work at an incredible pace; it has great potential to influence the future of Aussie workplaces and the superannuation sector.”

“Our participation allows Rest and its people to be part of the evolution–building our capability in this powerful tech and empowering us to explore its potential to help Rest deliver the best possible retirement outcomes to the nearly 2 million Aussies that entrust us with their super.” 

Sparking bright ideas in the energy, utilities and construction sectors 

According to a recent Capgemini research report, about 33 per cent of utility and energy companies worldwide have begun to pilot generative AI. Australia is no exception with AGL and Powerlink both being selected in the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program.

Findings from the Australian Government’s Intergenerational Report 2023 suggest that sectors like energy, utilities and construction need to look at tech to help automate routine tasks and improve worker capability to drive the productivity needed for the sectors.  

One of Australia’s leading energy companies, AGL, has joined the Early Access Program as part of their priority to help their workforce become more productive while continuing to promote a culture of innovation. AGL’s focus will initially be on users who are heavy content producers or leaders who have weeks filled with back-to-back and conflicting meetings. 

AGL Head of Employee Technology, Grace Russo, said: “We are always considering new tech that can help drive innovation within our business. AGL was one of the first companies to go into Azure when it landed in Australia, to adopt Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, and today we become one of the first companies to bring AI productivity technology to our workforce.”

“We have embraced flexible work models over the past few years, which has been positive on multiple fronts, however, it has also meant that employees are spending more time managing chats, emails and in meetings in order to stay connected. We are excited by Microsoft 365 Copilot and the huge potential it offers in helping our employees to be more efficient, productive and liberate them from the mundane to focus on higher value tasks.” 

Given the rapid and significant transformation within Australia’s energy sector, Powerlink sees the opportunity for generative artificial intelligence-powered tools such as M365 Copilot to help their workforce to keep pace with the changes and enable greater productivity. 

“Investing in our people with the tech to enable them to thrive in our dynamic sector has been core to Powerlink’s transformation over the past several years as part of our strategic partnership with Microsoft,” said Mark Pozdena, GM Business IT, Powerlink Queensland.

“The first teams to access this are already reporting saving at least an hour a day on being able to manage meeting documentation, MS Teams chats and emails more efficiently, so we are excited to see the benefits M365 Copilot could have more broadly in our workforce.”   

What does this mean for Microsoft?

Commenting on the groundbreaking program, Lucy Debono, Modern Work Business Group Director, Microsoft Australia and New Zealand, said, “Business leaders within the Early Access Program see this as an opportunity to gain a first-mover advantage in their sectors, and enable greater productivity in a market that is navigating sustained economic pressure.” 

“We really want these early adopters to work closely with Microsoft to use this technology, test it within their teams, help us to improve it further and drive great employee experiences. This is such an exciting opportunity to see how Australian companies will use this incredible new tool to fundamentally change how we work,” Lucy Debono further commented.

“Microsoft is committed to supporting enterprises, industry and govt to realise the economic, transformative benefits of Gen AI, and to do so responsibly. Microsoft 365 Copilot is built on our comprehensive approach to security, compliance and privacy so the client is always in control of the data being used while maintaining access controls in place,” said Lucy Debono.

“These are the foundations and guardrails needed to warrant people’s trust, so organisations can confidently and securely embrace AI productivity tools across their workforce.”   

Microsoft 365 Copilot is built on Microsoft’s trusted and comprehensive approach to enterprise-grade security, privacy, identity, compliance and responsible AI. This ultimately means Copilot inherits the organisation’s existing Microsoft 365 security, privacy, identity and compliance policies, while data is isolated and protected within the Microsoft 365 tenant.